Four days relaxing in Phoenix was exactly what I needed before embarking on my upcoming cookbook tour! I knew it would be a fun trip, but I was blown away by the amazing food (Kai!!), gorgeous scenes (emoji cacti!) and seriously the nicest people I have ever met. Sorry, Texas, Phoenix is so nice. We kind of wanted to be BFFs with everyone from our PR contacts to Uber drivers. Is it weird to miss an Uber driver? Well, I do.
Anyhoo, first stop was the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. When you walk into the hotel, you are greeted with the most stunning mountain view that my photos just didn’t do justice. My travel buddy Kristin and I both noticeably gaped when we walked in. The property is owned by the Pima and Maricopa Tribes and cultural touches are everywhere, from the murals to the pottery decor. Authentic touches- check! The person who checked us in may or may not be the happiest person on earth. After unpacking, Kristen and I headed to lunch at Aji Spa followed by much needed massages. I loved how they even used Native American scents in the spa. Ahhh.
After and little R&W (relaxing and working), we headed to Ko’Sin (kitchen in the Pima language) for dinner. Watermelon Salad with jalapeño, local feta, rocket lettuce, shaved red onion, gila river citrus and chili vinaigrette and Charred Eggplant with heirloom tomato, olive oil, and whipped feta cheese we two of my favorites!
Again, everyone was so nice and the executive chef came out to say hi. He used to work at the W in Austin so that was a fun connection. (Side note: I cant imagine going from the party central W Austin to relaxation Central Sheraton Grand at WHP.) Local goat cheese is used in a lot of dishes, so we took back some goat cheesecake to our room for dessert in bed while gossiping about boys. Because #partyanimals
Grilled Filet Mignon (!)
The next day, it was back to Ko’Sin for brunch. There was a bagel on the menu and I couldn’t say no.
After a little more work, (one of the pool guys asked if we traveled and drank different cocktails for work all the time and I WISH) we headed to the pool.
BTW the highest we saw was 114 F!! I will say that August is probably not a popular time to head to Phoenix, but I loved it. The popular spots were not crowded, service was excellent, and it was hot, but drier than Texas. So don’t let the temperatures dissuade you.
The whole pool was basically ours!
Obligatory bagel pool float photoshoot.
After some pool frolicking, we washed up for dinner at Kai (seed in the Pima language). Kai is the only AAA Five Diamond/Forbes Five Star restaurant in Arizona and has been named one of Open Table’s 10 Best Restaurants in America, so we had high expectations, but they were way surpassed.
No cell phones are allowed at Kai (which was amazing), so I’ll
steal share the photo below courtesy of Kai. Our dinner was nearly four hours of amazing conversation, food and service.
Our main waiter, Kevin, was the perfect mix of warm, knowledgeable and funny too. Paired with the sommelier, also Kevin, and we were in for a treat. I’m not even a cocktail girl, but the mixologist whipped up a chartreuse and gin concoction that I could drink every day if I didn’t have responsibilities.
The style of service was Russian service. Besides Kevin Squared, we each got our own waiter- and they do that whether you are a group of 2 or 20. The food is presented in a synchronized manner; we each received our dishes at the exact same time. Sort of like a food ballet. It was awesome and magical. I think I broke into applause once or twice.
There was history in every component. Our menus each had a hand painted scene depicting a Pima tribe story. And the menu, by Chef Ryan Swanson, had tons of local influence. The Bellota Iberico Llomo Wrapped High Country Elk Loin with Fossil Creek Chevre Risotto, Wild Mushrooms, Natural Jus & Truffle Emulsion and the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Paw-Paw Fruit, Schnepf Farms Peach Preserve, Pepita Seed Streusel, Cherry Elderflower Gastrique, Mesquite & Buckwheat Basket were my favorites, but everything we sampled was flawless in presentation and so delicious. And the portions were surprisingly huge. We were so full.
After sharing appetizers and entrees, we switched from cocktails to wine and were presented with glasses that could easily hold an entire bottle. My kind of wine glass. Before dessert, we received a palate cleanser for the senses. Herbs in a pot with dry ice smelled so fresh as it wafted into our noses. Then there was the generous cheese course, paired with local honey comb. My back was to the server, but I saw the look on my dining mate’s faces as they brought over a huge piece of honey comb and cut of pieces for each of us. They were faces of awe. I was presented with the Chocolate and Beets dessert with Chocolate Ganache, Hibiscus Raspberry Gel, Beet Cake, Chocolate Wattleseed Soil, Frozen Raspberry. At this point I was like get out of my head, Kevin! How could they know I love beets so much??
We rolled back to our room, only to find a note thanking us for dining at Kai, and some mini muffins for breakfast and a gift of local olive oil. Such a nice touch, not that I would ever need to eat again.
But I managed to! With breakfast in bed with Sweet Noshings!
Agritopia is a modern community all about preserving urban agriculture. There are stores, farm and restaurants. I love the biblical garden, with dates, figs and pomegranate!
We had lunch at Joe’s Farm Grill, which gets many of their local ingredients from the farm on the premises.
My ahi tuna burger and beet salad were exactly what I was craving.
Foodfash + What Jew Wanna Eat!
We stopped by The Coffee Shop for a birthday cupcake!
Next up, was a tour of Queen Creek Olive Mill. I love all things olive and olive oil, so this was exciting.
We got a tour of the farm, and learned a lot about the olive oil making process. They make all kinds of flavors like Meyer Lemon or Vegan Bacon (!) Olive Oil (fact: oil is no longer extra virgin if it’s flavored) and balsamics like Prickly Pear Balsamic.
And then, because we definitely needed more food, happy hour wine and bruschetta at Postino.
Then off to our next hotel. The Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort! This hotel is so cool. It’s built into a cliff so the views are amazing.
I mean HELLO!We had dinner at Different Pointe of View which was delicious and had the most amazing view (again with the views, Phoenix!). The chef (I have never met so many nice chefs) treated us to tastes of many menu items. This Seared Stone Fish with Scallion Scented Bamboo Rice with Beech Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions, Grilled Scallion Emulsion, and Lobster Mushroom Broth was a stand out. Side note, stone fish is one of the most venomous in the world, but you can still eat it! I live on the edge.
The next morning was a breakfast I was definitely looking forward to. Chompies!! A Jewish deli dream in the desert. Was it a mirage? I hope not. These Jewish sliders (Featured on Man vs. Food) are brisket and a latke on a challah bun. OMG. Here is our spread. The cheese blintzes- from a family recipe- were my favorite.
Oh yes. The Borensteins – Lou, Lovey, Mark, Neal & Wendy are the founders who came to Phoenix from Queens in 1979 with a dream of opening a deli with their family recipes. Why Phoenix? The weather that winter was especially bad in Queens. Daughter Wendy wanted to move to California, but Lovey was convinced an earthquake would send Cali into the Pacific. The new coast… Arizona! And here we are.
Known for their authentic bagels, Lovey said when she first opened the deli, no one even knew what a bagel was! (Picture the below with a thick Queens accent.)
“Someone asked for one of the chocolate doughnuts. It was a pumpernickel bagel!” *shakes fist!*
Oh yes. Us with Lovey! She still works every day and we loved her and wanted to take her back to Austin with us to party. (“Now you’re talking!” says Lovey. We love Lovey.)
With full bellies, and a bag of Jewish desserts (“Eat, you’re too thin. Take a black and white cookie!”) we were off to a little culture at Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home Taliesin West.
Built in 1937, the home is still the epitome of cool.
I took the opportunity to bust out a black & white. Look to the cookie! Cacti!!!
Next, lunch at Nook!
I was craving veggies, so this frisee, salmon, goat cheese, beet and pomegranate salad was it.
Back at the Hilton and cabana time! The Summer of the Cabana continues.
We freaked out like little kids at a Frozen on Ice show when we saw those emoji floats.
Chef Abel made us pico and guacamole by the pool and it was one of the most fun things we did all week. I definitely recommend it when you go to the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs!
It was seriously the best guac I’ve ever had. And I eat a lot of guac. Chef Abel taught us to mix with a whisk for a good variety in texture. Neat trick. The roasted poblanos and jalapeños were a perfect addition.
But these watermelon drinks!!! Fresh watermelon and vodka and not at all sweet. I may or may not have had all three.
Our happy place!
Not a cacti!
Dinner that night and the best cocktails at Bitter + Twisted. And then one more cookie from Chompie’s before hitting the road. Chews and views, y’all! See ya next time, Phoenix!
Visit Phoenix hosted our stay in Phoenix, but all opinions are my own. And my opinion is that Phoenix is awesome!